I jumped head first into the music rhythm genre years ago with DDR. It was a new idea for me to experience music and games combined with physical movement, granted it was tiring as hell. This opened up the door for me and other music based games though. One of my all-time favorites was Amplitude. Suffice to say, I’m a fan of the genre, but when I heard that there was a new game called Thumper I’d never heard of previously, and it featuring a VR mode for my new PS VR unit, I had to check it out. Thumper is quite an experience inside VR, and even without.
Pump up the jam
Thumper has a very basic and simple idea behind it. Players control a ship like craft that is moving forward along a long elevated track. The track can be seen in the distance, and this helps with determining twists and turns. This plays an important factor into gameplay, as Thumper requires a very solid state of attention. It starts simple enough, with players having to synch button presses up to glowing spots on the track. Though as simple as the first level and introduction to mechanics starts out, it only gets crazier and harder. Eventually players have to synch to beams of light, turns to slide on, and even sending back waves of energy to destroy barriers.
Price I’d Pay: $19.99
How long to beat: 5+ hours
The first level seemed interesting enough and solid, but the second level proceeded to give me a challenge, which only increased as the levels did. It’s an insane amount of keep track of, but over time it becomes over second nature. Just when players will think they have seen everything the game can throw at them, a new element will come into play. There are even mini bosses, and a final boss to each stage, which continue to stack on the difficulty. Granted, it never feels unfair, but it truly pushes the player to be on their toes and keep their reaction times quick. It requires attention and the utmost concentration in order to be able to hit all the key spots and send a pulsing shockwave attack back at the enemy. It gets really tough later on, but it’s extremely satisfying when nailed.
Sights and sounds
Visually, Thumper is both simplistic and has a lot going on with it all at once. The player is funneled down a track and it stays this way for the duration of the experience. It’s the surrounding visual effects of weird alien like appendages, opening and closing shapes, and weird elements that give it an almost alien world feel. Add in the sound track, which works extremely well to not only provide a tense and dramatic beat to the gameplay, but also audio clues that let players know if they hit the turns or glow hot spots just right. It’s a huge visual and audio treat in this regard, even without VR. Add that element in and it feels as if the player is actually down on the track moving forward through this huge alien world. The end bosses are freaky looking as well, with a creepy skull like face flying into view.
Bump and grind
Thumper is one of my favorite games this year, simple yet challenging, visually stimulating, and excellent sound use. Easy to play, hard to master is the familiar phrase that comes to mind. VR only adds to the experience, but even without that added element, the game shines. It’s a wee bit too challenging early on, which might prevent more casual players from really getting far, which is a shame, but those that can handle it are in for a good time. The solid checkpoint system makes it easy to retry failed areas over and over again. Levels can feel a bit long winded, but regardless, every time I played Thumper I was both smiling and intensely focused, never wanting to give up trying again when failing. The sign of a great game for me personally.
Did it make me sick: No issues with nausea or motion sickness.
Favorite moment: Completely nailing a high score rank or progressing past a difficult area.
Worst moment: Almost getting that final boss destroyed and then losing your rhythmic footing.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.